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Employment Services: Learning Disability

Volume 476: debated on Monday 19 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans his Department has to increase awareness of the services of disability employment advisers among people with a learning disability. (206505)

We recently carried out a major review of WORKSTEP, Access to Work, Work Preparation, the Job Introduction Scheme and the Disability Employment Advisor role. We listened to the views of many disabled people, employers, external delivery partners and Jobcentre Plus staff, as well as taking into account the recommendations from the National Audit Office and the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit report ‘Improving Life Chances of Disabled People’. The public consultation, which closed on 10 March, set out proposals to improve these services to help more disabled people. We will publish a response to the consultation during the summer.

In the meantime, we will continue to take steps to raise awareness of the services that can be provided by Disability Employment Advisers. As well as the normal methods of publicity, for example leaflets and the Jobcentre Plus and Directgov websites, Disability Employment Advisers work hard to engage with customer representative organisations and other partners in the community. This is particularly important in increasing access to services for people with learning difficulties. In Edinburgh, for example, the Disability Employment Advisers work closely with organisations that support customers with learning disabilities.

Jobcentre Plus is often invited to contribute to literature produced by various disability organisations including for example RADAR'S Doing Work Differently, which includes information on Disability Employment Advisers and the specialised support available to disabled people. Jobcentre Plus also contributes articles to publications such as My Future Choices, the magazine of the Transition Information Network, outlining support available and how to get it. Where appropriate, Jobcentre Plus will continue these activities.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people with a learning disability Jobcentre Plus assisted in gaining employment in each of the last five years. (206506)

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department plans to take to improve the training available to people with a learning disability who are applying for jobs with the support of Jobcentre Plus. (206507)

A lack of skills and the need for training is only one of a number of barriers faced by people with a learning disability who want to take up paid work.

We recognise the importance of working more closely and strategically with our key suppliers in order to help us improve delivery of services to customers, including where programmes provide training to support people with learning disabilities into jobs. Areas for improvement in training will also be driven through our management of contracts as well as Ofsted inspection and audit.

Jobcentre Plus offers a range of support to help people move into work. Workstep is designed to support disabled people who have more complex barriers to work, including those with a learning disability. Providers will provide training which is appropriate to enable the disabled employee to do their job. Around one third of Workstep participants have a learning disability. Others are helped by the Access to Work programme through which they can receive a grant to fund a support worker.

We are working jointly with other Departments to improve work opportunities for people with a learning disability. The Getting A Life project is specifically aimed at getting the employment, education and local authority day services functions for people with a learning disability to work together in an integrated manner. The main focus is on people going through transition to adulthood.

The project is being steered and funded by the Departments for Work and Pensions; Health; Innovation, Universities and Skills; and Children, Schools and Families; with the support of the Social Exclusion Task Force, Valuing People, and the Office for Disability Issues. Demonstration projects are being run in seven sites over a three year period from April 2008.

In addition, the Government's Public Service Agreement for socially excluded adults is aimed in part, at increasing the number of adults with learning disabilities in employment. To help us achieve this, we are working with local government through the new Local Area Agreements and we are also working with a number of departments to consider what more central Government can do to help this group of people into work.